Moviegoers Push The Town to Unexpected Box Office Win

Viewers hit The Town this weekend to make it the number one movie in North America according to early studio estimates. Ben Affleck’s well-reviewed crime drama easily fought off three other new releases and last week’s champ Resident Evil: Afterlife to secure a first place finish. Overall, numbers were decent for the weekend with the top five up a huge 60% from last weekend, the top ten up 38% from last weekend and 2.6% from last year at this time.

The Town, actor and co-writer Ben Affleck’s second directorial effort after his excellent 2007 debut Gone Baby Gone, opened to a big $8.4 million on its first Friday en route to a solid $23.8 million from 2,861 screens. For comparison, Baby opened with $5.1 million en route to a final gross of just over $20 million. Reviews were solid across the board from the national critics (and rightfully so; the film is terrific fun) and audiences liked what they saw as well, giving the Boston-based heist flick a “B+” Cinemascore Rating. The Town with co-stars Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall and Blake Lively is the first Affleck-headlined film to debut in the top spot since 2003’s comic book movie Daredevil.

The general consensus heading into this weekend is The Town would land in either second or third place given its hard R-rating and adult-targeted audience. But with great advanced buzz and distributor Warner Brothers increasing the film’s ad campaign over the past couple of weeks, the film surged ahead of its competition on opening day and didn’t look back. Town’s debut was reminiscent of the opening for another recent Boston-based crime drama: Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. That film debuted in October of 2006 with $28.6 million en route to $132 million in ticket sales and an Oscar for Best Picture. Whether Affleck’s drama has what it takes to nab some awards love is an entirely other matter; but financially, it certainly should prove to be a big hit that will help solidify Affleck’s status as a filmmaker.

While Affleck landed the number one spot his movie wasn’t the only one to have an impressive debut. Sony’s Screen Gems opened the Emma Stone high school comedy “Easy A” and scored a solid $18.2 million from 2,856 screens. Like The Town, the modern-day teen riff on The Scarlett Letter earned great reviews from the nation’s critics (rare for a teen comedy these days) and an “A-” (hmmm…was it an…easy A-?) from moviegoers polled by Cinemascore. Both factors point to a healthy box office run for the comedy and another positive step in Emma’s brisk ascent into the top tier of young actresses working today.

What are people more scared of these days? A possessed elevator or seeing M. Night Shyamalan’s name attached to a particular film? If the $12.6 million opening gross 2,809 screens for Universal’s Devil is any indication, it’s the latter.

While the Sixth Sense director only produced and did not direct the film, audiences clearly could care less. The film was held from critics until the last minute, always the sign of a turkey, and the audiences that did go out to see it gave the movie a none-too-heavenly “C+” Cinemascore rating.

Following its big opening last weekend, Resident Evil: Afterlife dropped like a stone to land in fourth place with $10.1 million from 3,209 screens to bring its ten-day total to $44.5 million. The movie was never expected to be a long-term box office champ, but its 62% drop from last weekend is a sign that anyone interested in the film went in the first week. Still, the movie should end up being the most successful of the franchise thus far and finish its box office run somewhere in the area of $60 million.

In fifth place was Lionsgate’s 3D animated feature Alpha and Omega which squeezed out a small $9.2 million from a wide 2,625 screen count. Unlike last September’s 3D animated smash Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, this animated feature had a minuscule ad campaign and mostly negative reviews. With Warner’s 3D animated Legend of the Guardian set to open next weekend, watch for Alpha and Omega to make a quick exit from the top ten en route to home video by the end of the year.

Remaining top ten slots were summer leftovers grasping for a few last dollars prior to closing out their box office runs. Sixth place went to Screen Gems’ Takers which suffered a direct hit from fellow heist flick The Town to gross $3 million for the weekend and a new total of $52.3 million. Seventh place went to George Clooney’s fast-fading The American with a $2.8 million gross and a new total of $32.8 million. In eighth place was Will Ferrell’s comedy hit The Other Guys which added $2 million to its total of $115.4 million.

Christopher Nolan’s continues to rake in dollars which is why it’s Blu-ray and DVD release plans have not been officially announced by Warner Bros. yet. The long-running smash added $2 million to its domestic haul of $285.1 million, good enough to land in ninth place. Rounding out the top ten was Julia Roberts’ Eat Pray Love which hauled in $1.7 million to bring its overall total to $77.7 million. The Roberts flick tied with Robert Rodriguez’ Machete which also pulled in an estimated $1.7 million helping its gross reach $24.6 million. And just outside the top ten this weekend, Sylvester Stallone’s August action flick The Expendables crossed the $100 million mark. Stallone is already working on ideas for the sequel.

Next weekend Fox releases Oliver Stone’s sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Warner unleashes Legend of the Guardian: the Owls of Ga’Hoole, Buena Vista debuts the comedy You Again and Sony will open The Virginity Hit. Take a shot at predicting what these films might make in our ongoing Weekend Box Office Prophet Game for a chance at Blu-ray prizes. The next round kicks off this week.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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